One of my favorite open-source projects is Puppet, a system used to automate system administration tasks. Think BladeLogic or Opsware...at a fraction of the cost and, according to the Puppet team, at a significant performance and functionality boost. Leading organizations like Google, Stanford University, and more use Puppet.
OStatic talked with Reductive Labs, the company behind the Puppet project, and wrote a great article detailing its promise.
So what can Puppet do for you? It allows system administrators to write "recipes" that define machine functions and maintenance tasks that automate their routine work. Thinking along the lines of cloud or utility computing, Puppet allows you to manage a large number of systems or virtual machines without doing manual labor or writing small one-off scripts..."The Puppet project was conceived when clouds were on the far horizon, but Puppet solves configuration problems that virtualization potentially multiplies," said [the Puppet team]."
In other words, as more services move to the cloud or to complex, virtualized environments, with higher server counts and an ever-increasing cost of downtime, a system like Puppet becomes critical plumbing.
I had the chance to talk with Reductive Labs' founder, Luke Kanies, recently, and asked about Puppet's/Reductive Labs' mission. His answer?
Reductive Labs will provide the selection mechanisms that help IT evolve from a cost center to a competitive advantage.
This calls to mind Tim O'Reilly's suggestion that operations is the new competitive advantage. For some, IT is just dumb plumbing that is a necessary evil. But for Google and others that use IT strategically and creatively, tools like Puppet become imperative.
Puppet is a great way to manage Unix/Linux-based machines or, rather, the services around them. Take a look at the project. I think we're going to be hearing a lot more about Puppet in the weeks and months to come.